Tag Archives: metal

Crowbar – Sever The Wicked Hand [Review]

Sever The Wicked Hand is the ninth album from New Orleans sludge metal legends Crowbar and was released on E1 Music February 14, 2011, the band’s first release in six years.

In the history of metal, there are only a few bands who can really be attributed with being pioneers and landmarks in their respective styles and Crowbar are just that. In the early ’90s Kirk Windtstein and company cemented themselves as the premier sludge metal band of the time. Even at their worst, they’re still as good as any band to ever make sludge metal (after all, the did help make the mold).

Sever The Wicked Hand is exactly in line with everything that you’ve come to know and love about Crowbar, except possibly a bit darker this time. Kirk’s concentrated and powerful vocal delivery over constant fuzzed-out guitar riffs. The flavor of this album is very slightly different than 2005’s Lifeblood of the Downtrodden; a slightly different sound is to be expected after six years and, aside from Kirk, a totally new lineup.

There’s not a lot of speed in this record, it’s as slow as ever. Many songs employ Kirk’s more sorrowful and semi-clean vocals with more slick (but still fuzzed-out) guitar licks. Don’t worry, for all of you that like the thick and thrashy chugged out riffs, they’re still there. In general, however, Sever The Wicked Hand is still an incredibly heavy album, just not in a modern headbanger sort of way. It’s a slow, marching, and deliberate heavy at most times that feels more like a classic Black Sabbath sort of heavy.

The most interesting part about this album, though, has nothing to do with the music or performance itself, but rather the production and mixing. It sounds totally unlike a vast majority of metal records nowadays, outside of maybe some of the more obscure black metal bands. It’s an incredibly heavy sound without having a ton of sound packed into the lower register, most of the meat of these tracks are on the mids and so you really get to hear the full effect of the fuzz. It almost sounds rough around the edges, but deliberately so. There aren’t any fancy bass drops to add extra emphasis on chord changes, it’s all natural kick.

As a whole, as I mentioned before, Sever The Wicked Hand is everything we’ve come to know and love about Crowbar, perhaps this time with a little extra sorrow embedded in its sound and lyrics.

Track picks: “Liquid Sky And Cold Black Breath” and “The Cemetery Angels”

Overall score: 9/10 Devil Horns

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Happy Headbanging Valentine’s Day!

Valentine’s Day: a time of both extreme love and extreme hate, depending on your situation. Me, I see Valentine’s day as another excuse to make playlists. This year I’ve come up with a pair of metal playlists, one of which is more suitable for you depending on whether you’ve got a Valentine or not. So, either grab your Valentine and headbang for love, or gorge on some delicious Valentine’s Day candy–either way, have a very metal day from me to you. Happy Valentine’s!

You can see the complete list of songs in each playlist over the Tastemakers Magazine blog where I originally posted. Alternatively, you can just go to the iTunes playlists I made:
Metal anti-Valentine’s Day
Metal Valentine’s Day

The Heaviest Matter of the Week Vol. 2

Each Tuesday night I’ll be posting an installment of The Heaviest Matter of the Week. What is it you ask? Well, it’s a weekly audio feature in which I will preview a few tracks, tell you a little about them, and provide you with an audio sample. Each week the tracks will have a common theme among them, be it genre, album, artist, release date, track name, etc.

The Heaviest Matter of the Week, Vol. 2: September 28, 2010

This week’s theme is a surprise (it’s a game!) and features the bands At The Gates, Baroness, and Bloodsimple.

I’d give information about the songs or where you could get them, but that would ruin the surprise and game!

The Heaviest Matter of the Week Vol. 1

Each Tuesday night I’ll be posting an installment of The Heaviest Matter of the Week. What is it you ask? Well, it’s a weekly audio feature in which I will preview a few tracks, tell you a little about them, and provide you with an audio sample. Each week the tracks will have a common theme among them, be it genre, album, artist, release date, track name, etc.

The Heaviest Matter of the Week, Vol. 1: September 21, 2010

This week’s theme is sludge/post-metal and features the bands Isis, Voyager, and Kylesa.

You can find the METAL SWIM compilation for free download here. If you’re looking for the Monolith/Voyager split, here’s the iTunes Music Store link for it. If you’re feeling especially cool, you can find the vinyl on the Omega Order’s website under the Science of Silence’s section.

It’s called a “live” show for a reason. Be alive.

Being the metalhead that I am, concert-going is a pretty steady habit of mine. I scour Last.fm, Ticketmaster, Facebook, MySpace, and many other destinations across the ‘net to make sure I can figure out all the acts coming to town that I must see. I’ve been to many bad shows, many mediocre shows, and a handful of great shows. In the metal world, you most likely won’t make it if your live show doesn’t hold up (unless you get lucky and are heavily backed by some powerful people in the genre). How do you do that, you ask? You play your fucking hearts out.

The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza doing it right

Merely showing up and playing doesn’t cut it, though. Any idiot with half a brain can figure that out (and still somehow, bands manage to get this first step wrong). Aside from not showing up or forgetting how to play your own songs, this isn’t really that hard of a step. If you’re a small band, it’s pretty tough to be so bad that the half-drunk people scattered around the bar for your opening performance outwardly dislike you. Once you’ve shown up, proven that you can actually play the music you wrote and (hopefully) play on a regular basis, you’re halfway to have a decent show.

If you decide that you’re fine being lifeless statues on the stage, playing your music (rhythm guitar for Between the Buried and Me I’m calling you out) then leaving, that’s fine – you can just enjoy having people not care about you or your band. You play metal, for Christ’s sake, you shouldn’t be so damn boring while playing your music. That is unless you hate your own music, and in that case why are you playing it at all? Do everyone a favor and at least make it look like you’re not dead, and that you actually enjoy playing music.

How about playing the same songs in the same way every night? Well, since the people there might know and like them, that’s a pretty safe bet. Think outside the box with me here a second, what if you actually (dare I say), improvised? I know, it seems a bit strange to think about, and it requires plenty of trust and comfort level with your bandmates. Don’t you think you would have built that up through practice and living in a van with them while on tour? At the very least, switch up a solo or two, perhaps play a great cover song – give the fans something new and exciting. No one is ever going to leave your set saying “Oh my god! Did you see [guitarist] play that solo from [song with a solo] the same exact way he does on the album? IT WAS AMAZING.” unless you’re one of very few people/bands (The Faceless, Tosin Abasi, Paul Masvidal and All Shall Perish being a few of these).

razormaze at church

Razormaze bringing the fire

Some of the best sets I’ve ever seen have been entirely unorthodox, or special in some way. It’s really not that hard if you have a little creativity – which you should, being a musician and all. I can vividly remember seeing Razormaze at Great Scott in Allston, MA for the CD release of their debut album The True Speed of Steel being one of the greatest sets I’ve ever witnessed. The guys were full of energy and passion, and the entire crowd was stoked to see them. Toward the latter stages of their set, their rhythm guitarist’s (Alex Citrone) guitar ceased functioning, and without really skipping a beat the band continued their set with a cover of Mötorhead’s “Ace of Spades.” You may scoff at that, or think it’s silly, but the crowd (including myself) thought it was the greatest thing ever at the time.

Sometimes bands can actually not pull out any surprises, but just bring it so hard it doesn’t matter – that’s the case with bands like The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza,Irepress, Isis, and The Faceless. With these bands, crowd involvement is often key. The more intense and into it the crowd is the better the performance feels. For instance, when you have a constant stream of body surfers flowing towards the stage as you’re screaming through your most brutal verse as a band, it’s hard to not be completely stoked about everything around you (that was the case when I saw Danza).

So bands, put on the show of your lives every single night, the fans will definitely appreciate it. Fans, make it known that you want a good show!

The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza – Danza III: A Series of Unfortunate Events [review]

Danza III: A Series of Unfortunate Events is the third full-length release from Tennessee-based The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, and was released on Black Market Activities on July 6, 2010.
TDTDE Danza III

It’s hard to imagine a band that goes by the name of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza would make ordinary music. Luckily, TDTDE push the envelope. Straight out of the heart of Tennessee, the band has created a unique signature sound using grindcore grooves, deathcore breakdowns, face grinding guitar riffs and hokey song topics—all of which are in full force on Danza III: A Series of Unfortunate Events.

If you’ve heard any Danza songs from their last album, Danza II: Electric Boogaloo, you will experience a similarly visceral assault with Danza III. In addition to the chaotic writing on the album, the production and soundscape really brings the beast to life. Every single bass drum hit done by Mike Bradley feels like a kick to the chest, every snare shot sounds like a rifle, it’s tough to keep your heart rate low. Combine that with the shrill, angular guitar parts played by Josh Travis and the raucous bellows of Jessie Freeland, and you’ve captured the essence of rage and adrenaline in audio form.

The lyrics on the album are based on unfortunate events (whether political, social, personal or otherwise) and the musical mood of the album appropriately corresponds. TDTDE do not plead their case with Danza III, there is no pussy-footing about. Instead, they impose their will with such vehemence and force even the most iron-willed of people have no choice but to succumb. From song to song, the listener experiences an aural bludgeoning until finally, when the album has come to a close, the listener feels like they have truly been victim of some sort of unfortunate event. The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza have truly transcended any box they could have been placed in, and created what will surely be one of the most chaotic and interesting listening experiences of 2010.

Track picks: “12.21.12” and “A Trail of Tears” (though truthfully, every track on this album is single-worthy)

Overall score: 10 out of 10 devil horns

If you’re looking to be a responsible music consumer and purchase the album, check it out at the Black Market Activities webstore or on iTunes.

AOTY Frontrunners

It’s about halfway through the year, and you know what that means – we’ve only got half a year left to get new album of the year candidates. There have been some surprises so far this year, both good and bad. We saw a return to form by a few bands, and a fall from grace from others. Here are the five best albums at the halfway point of the year:

Rhapsody the Frozen Tears of Angels

First up, Rhapsody of Fire with The Frozen Tears of Angels. Known as a band who always puts out solid symphonic power metal albums, it’s hard to really step your game up beyond “really good” after seven albums, but somehow Rhapsody of Fire have found a way to do so. In somewhat stereotypical fashion, the album starts off with an ominously narrated intro track, but then Luca Turilli’s fingers catch fire, and he plays the most furious and blistering guitar riffs I’ve ever heard from Rhapsody of Fire. The rest of the band follow suit, delivering what is easily the band’s best performance since Dawn of Victory.

High on Fire Snakes for the Divine

Next is the latest gem from Matt Pike, High on Fire‘s Snakes for the Divine. A bit of a change from the band’s last release, Death is This Communion, the band has delivered yet another record very much their own style and very obviously a solid record. All of the instruments, including Matt Pike’s voice, are as grimey as ever – but at least now it doesn’t sound like they were recorded in a garage. The problem about the production is that it’s a very acquired, but fitting, taste for the music. The whole album sounds very dense, and there isn’t much breathing room between instruments. Snakes for the Divine definitely shows more of Matt Pike’s influence from his days in Sleep, most notably in the slower sludge sections of “Bastard Samurai.”

Overkill Ironbound

Third we have an album that is a godsend in the modern thrash times, a return to form of one of the oldest thrash bands still around, Overkill‘s Ironbound. In recent years, Overkill had put out a number of mediocre thrash albums, and many fans were ready to put them out to pasture. Overkill have definitely quieted the critics with what is their best album in nearly two decades. Finally back to being a real thrash band and playing what they know best, Ironbound is a loud, fast, angry, and pure thrash album that is best listened to at ear-splitting volumes while giving yourself voluntary whiplash from headbanging.

White Wizzard Over The Top

There’s a lot to be said about our next album, but most importantly, you should know that it isn’t actually from the 1980’s. White Wizzard‘s Over the Top is often criticized for its obvious Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences, something that detracts from the talent of the band. It’s not as if White Wizzard are a crappy cover band, they’re just a band that really loves New Wave of British Heavy Metal and do it well, even if they are a couple decades late to the party. How can you argue with a band that writes lyrics like: “You’re gonna make it, you’ve got the fire, flames of your destiny, burning with desire. You’ve got the dreams, you’re burning higher. On wings wings of steel you fly to heights that will inspire!” (taken from “Over The Top”)?

Fear Factory Mechanize

The fifth album on this list is from a band I thought had thrown in the towel a few years ago, but have returned to deliver the best album of their entire career. Perhaps it’s just the “Gene Hoglan gene” that makes any band with him on drums sound awesome, but either way, it sure is nice to know that Fear Factory‘s Mechanize is a killer album. It takes the old school aggressive and raw sound of Fear Factory combined with the newer sound from albums like Archetype with big drawn-out clean vocal sections. If you ever heard Fear Factory and though “Hey, this isn’t too bad” you will most likely love Mechanize, as it takes everything Fear Factory ever did right, and steps it up a notch.

Surprisingly, there were some great metal bands that put out unenthusiastic and sub-par albums this year, including Arsis, Gamma Ray, and Heaven Shall Burn. The second half of 2010 looks quite promising with new albums from Blind Guardian, Whitechapel, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, Iron Maiden, and many more all on the horozon.